The Best Data Visualisations of the Year Are Absolutely Incredible

By George Dvorsky on at

The winners of the inaugural Data Stories Competition, which highlights some of the most creative and fascinating scientific data visualisations of the past year, have just been announced.

Sponsored by the Advancement of Science (AAAS), entries ranged from planetary science and oceanography to neuroscience and climate change. Three expert judges evaluated the submissions based on three key features: creativity, complexity and clarity. Here are the winning entries:

Professional Winner: Are Gazelles Endangered?

And you thought you didn’t care. It’s actually a much more complicated question than it sounds. R.J. Andrews from Info We Trust breaks it down for you:

Corporate Winner: Martian Atmosphere Loss Explained

Mars’ atmosphere ain’t what it used to be. This visualisation by Daniel Gallagher from NASA’s Scientific visualisation Studio explains why:

This visualisation was also the People’s Choice winner.

Student Winner: How People Gather

Ulf Aslak Jensen, a masters student at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), put together this fascinating visualisation showing how people mingle, interact, and generally go about their social lives.

Here are our favourite entries from the remaining list of candidates:

The Sun as a Pie Chart

This sweet visualisation by Tom Bridgman from NASA Goddard Multimedia depicts the sun’s numerous data signatures as single pie chart.

As NASA writes:

When we observe the sun with multi-wavelength imagers such as the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), we are often challenged with understanding how the different wavelengths reveal different phenomena in the solar atmosphere. By assembling these ‘pie slices’ from the different wavelength filters, and moving them around the solar disk, it is easier to see the similarities and differences in how the solar plasma responds in the fields of the solar environment.

The Network Behind the Cosmic Web

This submission by Kim Albrecht from the Center for Complex Network Research takes something that’s completely incomprehensible—the cosmic web that binds galaxies together—and presents it in a way that’s wholly understandable. Sort of:

Glass Brain Flythrough

The University of California, San Francisco’s Roger Anguera created this gorgeous visualisation showing how brain signals travel through and around the brain. Each color represents source power and connectivity in a different frequency band, i.e. theta, alpha, beta, and gamma waves:

The Causes of Gun Violence Identified

Using the latest research into gun violence, Gabriel Reilich from GOOD breaks down the growing problem in an engaging and provocative way:

The Global Temperature Anomaly

Here’s what the current climate change anomaly would look like if it were a roller coaster, courtesy of NOAA’s Emily Greenhalgh:

What Are the Chances of Another Katrina?

The United States hasn’t experienced a landfall Category 3 hurricane or larger since 2005. Is that weird? Joy Ng from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center explains:

Garbage Patch visualisation Experiment

Here’s what all those floating patches of garbage in our oceans are actually doing. This sobering video was produced by NASA’s Data visualisation Studios:

The Incredible Journey of a Single Tropical Storm

This video by Alex Kekesi of GST, Inc tracks a surprisingly long-lived and benign tropical storm as it makes it’s way around the Pacific:

Data-Driven Dust visualisation

This stunning visualisation by NASA’s Kel Elkins depicts dust from the Sahara Desert travelling across the Atlantic Ocean to the Amazon Basin:

The Eclipse of a Lifetime

On August 21, 2017—and for the first time in 40 years—the path of the moon’s shadow will pass through the continental United States. This NASA video shows what will go down on that highly anticipated day:

Think Forests, Think Water, Think Humanity

George Alger from the Center for International Forestry Research created a beautiful and informative video explaining why forests are a critical aspect of human well-being:

Dwindling Arctic Ice Since 1990

Where’d it all go? This NASA timelapse shows how ancient Arctic ice has declined in recent years:

Ocean Currents and Climate Change

Ocean currents are invisible to the naked eye, but this simulation by Los Alamos National Laboratory shows their intricate global reach:

More visualisations here.